This review series will primarily focus on teaching the informed game design student about good gameplay and niche indie games, utilizing terminology taught in Interactive Game Design classes here at SCAD. People are most receptive to learning when they’re having fun, so games and things that stimulate allow people to intake as much information as possible, and gamification can be applied to all things.
The current theme is political science, so let’s do a comparative study of “Long Live the Queen” and “Reigns.”
“Reigns” and “Long Live the Queen” are both Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA or RPG’s) games that focus on political and magical intrigue, as well how ruthless rulers can become in trying to survive. Both Elodie in “Long Live the Queen” and “Reigns’” Kings fight for survival in continually brutal ways as trust of the player is worn away over time; both are very effective in using mechanics as metaphor and eliciting the emotions one might feel in such a situation. Before we discuss “Long Live the Queen,” here’s quick history lesson for context.
In the Princess Maker series, the player assumed the role of the father of a girl who you could groom, choosing her lessons and outfits, to ultimately decide the fate of based on your choices. “Long Live the Queen,” from Hanako Games, rips its User Interface (UI) straight from the original release of Gainax’s 1990 series, flaws and all. Setting aside the fact that it probably would have been a good idea to improve the 20 years old at the time, comparing it to the minimalistic system of “Reigns,” this game seems quite inelegant by comparison, but its complexity also lends it weight.
In a game where you play as a pretty, pink princess, you’d be forgiven for being shocked after your initial counter with gruesome death, but it approaches politics in the vein of “Game of Thrones.” These graphic encounters give weight to your decisions, dragging your player into the magic circle. The princess, Elodie, is truly in grave danger with almost every encounter in the game. Without death looming around every corner, this would just be any other Lifetime Simulation game; without proper stakes, the player would fail to care about the situation, a quality that “Long Live the Queen” definitely has. This game does have instances of needless frustration, with the sheer amount of unexpected deathly events, and its pace is not nearly fast enough to allow for effective play-throughs like in “Reign.” It is, however, an interesting approach to conflict, without being combat oriented.
Statistical development is the goal of the game. You’ll have decide what classes Elodie will take and when, or she’ll die. The secondary mechanic aims to make it possible to allow you to develop those stats in time — and there are a lot of stats train — to pass through events unscathed. You can manipulate Elodie’s mood, which gives her a bonus to what she learns, by having Elodie spend time in a variety of places in the castle, and there are even adorable, and sensible, outfits that boost her stats.
The game maintains the Illusion of Choice in every possible aspect; no choice seems inconsequential, including consequences using boolean event triggers and statistic checks in excess. The pure amount of writing and repetitious coding that went into this project should automatically launch it into archival status, it is an exercise in patience and perseverance. The worst part of this game so far is that there is no sequel in site!
The UI is the only thing that truly limits this game from real greatness. There are too many interactions required to get to the relevant information necessary to make your decisions about classes. The listed bonuses aren’t even on the same page as the classroom selection. The UI also suffers from severe clutter, terrifying and confusing any of the uninitiated.
The transparent black background of the UI on further serves to darken what is already practically medieval color scheme, without the pink to break up the bleak environment one could easily mistake this game for some sort of horror story. The characters within the game lack grit and history in their design, no information is imparted via their appearance despite all of them being in only 2D, which should allow for more complex designs if anything.
Since the developers were western, who designed in the vein of a foreign art style, I see no reason for their cheap design decisions, aside from quick asset creation to profit ratio.